Peak District walk - Middleton-by-Youlgrave
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:11 03 May 2020
Step back in time with Sally Mosley on this winter wander through picturesque and unspoilt countryside, ambling around a traditional Peak District village and through a stunning Derbyshire Dale
1. Leave the centre of Middleton by walking to the bottom side of the playground where you will see a memorial plaque to the crew of a Wellington bomber that tragically crashed in a field near Smerrill during manoeuvres in the Second World War. Continue past the church dedicated to St Michael and All Angels on the left with outbuildings and the clock tower of Middleton Hall on your right. You are now following Weaddow Lane which in the 16th century was known as Weather Way and formed part of the old medieval Peakway from Parwich. In the 18th century it had become part of the Kings Highway from Derby to Manchester used by carriages, carts and wagons.
2. Turn left and go down the ‘no through road’ by a sign for Lowfield Farm holiday cottages.
3. On reaching the lowest point of this road before a right-hand bend, go through a narrow field gate on the right by a fingerpost sign. Cross the field keeping for a time beside the stream which is the infant River Bradford, known at this point as Rowlow Brook. The path will then lead through a little sheltered plantation known as Rusden Wood, encased within a natural rocky ravine. See thick slabs of limestone laid down during the carboniferous era, now dripping with ivy, moss and ferns.
4. On rejoining Weaddow Lane turn left. As you ascend to pass Smerrill Grange notice the far-reaching views towards Youlgrave where the church tower rises up above rooftops. On the far horizon is the tree-covered backdrop of Manners Wood near Bakewell with very distant Dark Peak Edges beyond. Smerrill Grange is mainly 18th century although there is said to be some remaining fabric of a much earlier monastic building. At the far end of the field after the farm, notice uneven ground which marks the site of an early settlement. Once thriving, it was abandoned when monastic overlords moved in during medieval times. Other communities to suffer a similar fate were nearby Gratton, Coldeaton near Alstonefield and Conksbury between Youlgrave and Over Haddon.
5. On the next bend look out for a strange carved rock on the right which has two faces and has sadly been vandalised. This is one of 17 artistic works collectively entitled the Sites of Meaning, undertaken as a millennium project by Middleton and Smerrill. Each piece of artwork acts as a boundary marker and was placed at an entry point to the parish. Some 200 people took part in the project by raising funds, collecting texts and inscriptions, commissioning stone from artists and masons and installing the finished works. This particular stone is inscribed ‘To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour – William Blake’.
6. On reaching a road junction at Dale End turn left just before the Old Cheese Factory, now converted into a private dwelling. Follow Mawstone Lane, which in parts is very narrow as it twists and turns up the hillside. Keep an eye out for buzzards soaring over the tall pine trees and listen for the squawk of jays hiding in the woods. From the elevated heights of this quiet country lane there are fabulous views over the surrounding landscape. Taken in through long-ago Enclosure Acts, the land hereabouts is divided into fields accessed by a network of roads and tracks. Prior to that the landscape here would have been far different, comprising open land, wild moor and bog. Little wonder that Monyash parish register records that in 1772 John Allcock and Richard Boham died on Middleton Moor in a snowstorm when returning from Winster market.
7. The narrow road will descend steeply to pass Hopping Lane on the left which leads to Bakewell Caravan & Camping Club Site. Continue ahead towards Youlgrave until you come to a drive on the right, secured by a metal gate decorated with the initials MMY for Mawstone Mine Youlgrave, which was one of only a handful of Derbyshire lead mines that operated into the 20th century. As with any mine, ingress of water from above was a constant problem. Mawstone was drained by the longest sough in the county – 6,100 yards long. Constructed mainly between 1766 and 1787, Hillcarr Sough drained several mines on its course, which was driven under these limestone hills and then below Stanton Moor, exiting into the Derwent at Darley Dale from beneath an 8ft high gritstone arch. The sough had later extensions and branches leading off its high main tunnel which was arched and lined with stone.
Tragedy struck at Mawstone Mine in 1932 when five of six miners working on a ventilation fan were killed after an explosion filled the gallery with carbon monoxide. The sixth miner was able to reach the surface and raise the alarm. A rescue party of two workers and the mine manager descended into the mine, but were themselves killed by the fumes.
8. Walk 25 yards beyond the metal gate and go through a stile and gate on the left to follow a footpath across a field along a stretch of an old miners’ path which will then lead steeply down to Bradford Dale to arrive at the old clapper bridge.
9. Do not cross the bridge but instead turn left and walk upstream passing a succession of fish breeding ponds created in the 19th century. Go through a gate and continue on the riverside path to a lovely packhorse bridge. Notice another of the Sites of Meaning in the form of an inscription on the parapet which reads, ‘Still glides the stream, and forever glide. The form remains, the function never dies – William Wordsworth’.
10. Continue beside the river to a series of walled enclosures where there used to be a pumping station that supplied water to Middleton before a mains water system arrived. A sheep dip was also located nearby. Notice what appears to be a stack of books. This is another of the Sites of Meaning and is inscribed with a collection of lines created by the community of Middleton and Smerrill. Follow the track which crosses the river then winds uphill to Middleton-by-Youlgrave and the end of the walk.
DISTANCE 5.25 miles
PARKING Roadside parking in Middleton-by-Youlgrave, DE45 1LS (please be considerate and avoid resident parking spaces). Grid Ref: 196633
TERRAIN 7 Gates and 2 stiles. A relatively easy walk mainly on the sound surface of quiet country lanes without pavements but with some field and stile footpaths where livestock graze. Steep stepped descent into Bradford Dale. Close proximity to river. Areas prone to mud in wet weather. Trip hazards in woodland.
REFRESHMENTS Molly Moo’s Tea Rooms, Middleton-by-Youlgrave (seasonal opening hours apply)
TOILETS Public toilets in Youlgrave (opposite Village Hall on Holywell Lane – open all year). Public toilets in centre of Middleton-by-Youlgrave (closed from end October to Easter)
MAP O.S. Explorer OL24 White Peak
WALK HIGHLIGHT Continuous views of an unspoilt rural landscape
DESCRIPTION Amble around deepest Derbyshire. Snuggled into the hills, the sleepy village of Middleton appears unchanged from years gone by, its quaint little cottages choc-a-bloc with charm and character. The finale of this walk is to follow the River Bradford upstream. Famed for its beauty and wildlife, the river has over time slowly carved a path through limestone, creating one of the county’s most beautiful dales.